Watts moved to "Limnerslease" in Compton in 1891, and with his artist wife, Mary Fraser-Tytler, planned a museum devoted to his work, which opened in April 1904, just before his death.
The architect of the Gallery was Christopher Hatton Turnor, an admirer of Edwin Lutyens and C. F. A. Voysey. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, the building contains top-lit galleries that allow Watts's work to be displayed under natural light.
It is the only Gallery in the UK devoted to a single artist, and has recently been marketed as "a national gallery in the heart of a village". The present director is Perdita Hunt and the curator is Dr Nicolas Tromans. Former curators include Wilfrid Blunt, Richard Jefferies (curator) and Mark Bills.
Watts Gallery was placed second in the final of the BBC TV series Restoration Village in 2006.
In January 2008 it was announced that the Gallery intended to deaccession and sell two Victorian paintings, Sleeping Woman (1880) by Albert Joseph Moore and Triumph of Love (1871) by Edward Burne-Jones, which had both been bequeathed to the collection by Cecil French. These were duly sold. The money was used to maintain the Gallery which was closed from September 2008 until 2010 for restoration.
In December 2006 Watts Gallery received a £4.3 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for renovations to help safeguard the future of the building and its collections.
Watts Gallery reopened in June 2011 after a major scheme of works, including extension, refurbishment and restoration. Visitors can now experience the Watts collection in the historic galleries displaying the original decorative schemes.
Over one-hundred paintings by G. F. Watts are on permanent display at Watts Gallery. Spanning a period of 70 years they include portraits, landscapes and his major symbolic works. From the dramatic entrance of the Livanos Gallery to the monumental sculpture and studio artefacts in the Sculpture Gallery, Watts Gallery shows the unique collection left by the artist as his legacy in the heart of a village.
- Watts Gallery website
- BBC Restoration Village on Watts Gallery
- Watts Gallery - ZMMA Website
- English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (288324)". Images of England.